Living & Thriving With PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as ‘PTSD’ for short is a mental health condition that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It causes extreme anxiety, nightmares, countless flashbacks, involuntary recollections of the event. People living with PTSD live in a constant state of fear even when they are not in any form of danger.

It is very difficult for a person with post-traumatic stress disorder to cope with everyday life, they go about life extremely anxious, sometimes depressed. The experience of living with PTSD is as traumatizing as the event that led to the disorder, a lot of the time PTSD is linked to war veterans because of the bulk of war vets suffering from PTSD its no surprise but PTSD also affects people that have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, domestic violence survivors, accident victims and people who have been through any sort of traumatizing experience. We must look out for our loved ones and relatives once we begin to see some of the signs listed in this article, we must seek help because PTSD is not the end of your world. The symptoms of PTSD could be highly physical, someone can be in a public place and everything is fine one moment then the next something around, maybe a particular sound, or the sight of a thing can trigger an emotional aggressive outburst which could be embarrassing. Living with PTSD is being afraid to go to sleep because of the fear of what’s lurking in your dreams, constant nightmares, getting in lost in memories of the trauma even in public places, it is physically and emotionally tasking to live with PTSD.

SYMPTOMS OF PTSD

You or someone you know may be going through PTSD it’s normal for people to be suffering from it and not be aware of it. People experience difficult situations and are constantly reliving the trauma. The cases may differ, some symptoms may appear almost immediately after a traumatic experience, sometimes it may not appear until after some years. Because these symptoms may manifest as an outward physical reaction PTSD affects a person’s life significantly, from career to relationships.

Symptoms of PTSD could be any one of these or combined;

· Avoidance; When you begin to find yourself avoiding thoughts places and people that are reminders of the event

· Involuntary recurring memories; also known as ‘intrusion memories’ disturbing uncontrollable memories of the event begin to reoccur, you start having flashbacks and it feels like you are experiencing the moment again.

· Mood swings; your relationships begin to falter, you find yourself detaching from people you used to be close to, your family and friends. You begin to lose interest in activities you once loved. Nothing seems to interest, you just want to be by yourself, slowly entering into depression.

· Switch in reactions; emotional numbness, this is also called arousal symptoms it includes being constantly on guard for danger even when you’re in safe spaces, having trouble concentrating for long, lots of trouble sleeping, easily irritated, angry, extreme feelings of guilt and shame.

These symptoms may be triggered by stress or by things that remind you of the event, for example when a rape victim watches a movie with a rape scene in it. As soon as these symptoms start they have the potential to become worse which is why we shouldn’t try to keep it to ourselves.

Children can also have emotional reactions to traumatized experiences, although their symptoms may not be the same as that of adults. Symptoms from children may include any of the following;

· Becoming more silent than usual, being unable to talk

· Extreme clinginess with adults

· Bedwetting and constant nightmares

· Teenagers may show symptoms similar to the ones listed previously for adults. They may also develop destructive behaviors, become more disrespectful, and blame themselves for whatever happened.

TREATMENT FOR PTSD

Having PTSD does not mean the end of your life, there have been medical breakthroughs and functional treatments for it.

EMDR therapy fully known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy has proven to be an effective treatment of PTSD, it is a well-researched therapy that you will love if you find it difficult to share your traumatic experience. This therapy doesn’t require you to talk, most treatments require you to talk about your experience which may be difficult, understandably because it will be like its happening all over again. This therapy focuses on you allowing your brain resume its natural healing process, instead of telling your therapist about your experience you concentrate on the experience while you watch or listen to a form of bilateral stimulation (whether it is a beeping in your ears, or following your therapists fingers across your eye span) your therapist is doing, the goal in EMDR is for you to be able to associate a positive cognition (example: “I am safe”) when you remember your trauma, this treatment is widely considered one of the most effective PTSD treatments and it can only be performed by an EMDR specialist.

Asides therapy medications as prescribed by a therapist can help with managing the symptoms. Other forms of therapy can also be used although they involve talking they also prove to be effective, the goal is to help you deal with it and improve your symptoms. There’s Prolonged Exposure Therapy which will help you confront the trauma if you’ve been trying to avoid it, during your sessions you will be asked to make a list of the things you’ve been avoiding and how you can successfully confront them. There’s cognitive processing therapy, here you will write about the event, then your therapist will take you through the process, to figure out how you think of your trauma, pointing out circumstances beyond your control if you were blaming yourself, and figure out better ways to live with it.

People living with PTSD go through a lot of stress physically and emotionally, once the symptoms begin to show it is best to seek professional help. Anyone that has been through any form of trauma can have PTSD, there may not be direct involvement with the traumatizing experience sometimes, just the knowledge of it can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. Having PTSD does not mean your life is over, there is hope for you. If you feel that you are suffering from PTSD, contact us.

4 Tips to Help You Deal with Loneliness, Grief and Loss in a Time of COVID-19

Grief and loss are both very complex emotional processes for humans to experience. Learning to adjust to life after any big change requires a lot of patience – it’s a long process and can last a whole lifetime.

When we think of loss, our thoughts immediately go to the passing of a loved one, but loss and mourning come in many other forms and affect each person differently. We can feel a similar sense of loss and grief after losing out on something we really wanted, when we experience a big change (even if it’s only an inner change), a loss of a relationship, and other similar feelings.

This is particularly relevant as we all try to live during and after Coronavirus. This pandemic has been the cause of so much grief, both in the sense of losing lives and in the sense of lost opportunities and a loss of your way of life and routine.

Grief and loss, and how to process them

Grief is a natural response to loss and usually features a number of stages. These stages consist of denial, where we try to convince ourselves that this loss has not occurred, anger, where we look for someone or something to blame, bargaining, where we think “what if this hadn’t happened”, and depression, where we experience low moods and sadness. Finally, we experience acceptance, which brings hope. It should be noted that these steps aren’t always chronological, and it’s common for people to go between these phases as their circumstances change.

Coronavirus has cost thousands of people their routines, jobs, regularly seeing friends and family, education, and put a pause on all the things we do to socialize and seek excitement. Whether it’s a traveling opportunity, a sports season, a family gathering or a graduation ceremony, we’ve all had to seriously adjust our expectations about what activities and events are feasible, and many of us have had to process no longer following through on our plans.

For example, the, loss of the football season here in Columbus has left a huge gap in the lives of people here, as we normally follow the college football season, and get excited when OSU Football starts! The empty football stadiums and lack of games to watch has been and will be particularly isolating, and so it’s only natural that many of us here – and around the country – experience feelings of grief, even if we don’t identify those feelings as such.

Here are some things you can do to process properly and mourn any losses you’ve experienced as a result of COVID-19:

1. Acknowledge how you feel

Many people believe that expressing sadness or anger makes them weak in the face of adversity, especially if it’s not a life and death situation. This can be a huge hindrance to a person’s healing process, and can only make things worse in the long run. By acknowledging your emotions and accepting that grief is a process, you’re giving yourself the best chance of healing in a healthy way.

2. ,Be patient with yourself

It’s important to remember that loss happens to everyone, and everyone deals with their loss in unique ways. Don’t feel guilty about the emotions you feel, because that’ll only make your healing process longer and harder. Your grieving process belongs to you, and nobody can tell you how to feel.

3. ,Seek help

Whether you’ve just experienced loss or struggling to adjust, speaking to a professional is always beneficial. A trained therapist will give you tools to help you process your emotions and figure them out.

4. ,Stay in tune with your body

It’s easy to see grief and loneliness as a mental issue, but it can also be very physical. Physical sensations like nausea, fatigue, insomnia, aches and pains are common sensations when someone is in mourning. These symptoms are all commonly associated with anxiety and depression, which are two mental health issues that often work alongside grief.

While this year has provided many challenges for people in every walk of life, we should all bear in mind that things can and will improve. We should not deny the pain we have experienced as a result of this pandemic- rather, we should acknowledge it. Talking about loss is a vital part of lessening the load, and collective healing can certainly be achieved through expression, honesty and empathy. If you feel like you’re unable to manage the feelings you are having, or would simply like to talk to someone through this time, we’re here to help.

Talking to a therapist is like seeing a personal trainer for your mind – it’s something anyone can do if they want some extra guidance on how to feel as strong and healthy mentally as possible. If you’re interested in finding out more about talking to one of our therapists, click here.

Helping in a Time of Social Unrest

Black Lives Matter. It’s everywhere. The murder of George Floyd sparked global protest of the injustices people of color have had to face for decades. These protests continue even down to this day. People of all races rally for justice. While a majority of protestors are people of color, those who aren’t have also taken to the streets.

It’s no doubt a challenging situation, especially nowadays when you want to help fight for justice, when you want to do more than just hold up a picket sign and march through the streets; but you’re just not sure what. Then it becomes difficult to ask, for fear of saying something that might offend the very group you’re trying to help. So if you’re trying to make a lasting difference, but just aren’t sure how; help has arrived.

Donations

Unfortunately, many families have lost the breadwinner due to racial injustice. Whether their family member has been incarcerated, or tragically killed, these families are struggling. Take into account funeral expenses, household bills, even the basic need to put food on the table; it’s no wonder these families are having a tough time. With this in mind, one can see how donations can go a long way. If everyone donated to the cause, many wouldn’t have to wonder if they’ll be able to feed their families, or even have to face eviction.

When a loved one is unjustly persecuted, sometimes the result is wrongful incarceration. If bail is an option, putting up bail money can be one of the toughest things for someone who’s already trying to make ends meet. When other bills, even rent, are difficult to pay, putting up bail can be an even further financial burden. Though services such as bail bonds can help defer the full cost of bail, they usually require 10 – 15% of the actual bail money. This can run a pretty penny, depending on what bail was set at. Donating to bail bonds in behalf of affected families can make a big difference for a family in need.

Local Black Lives Matter chapters are also ready and willing to accept donations. The money given can help them allocate funds to where it’s needed most, such as to the aforementioned bail bonds, and other critical areas. Contact your local Black Lives Matter chapter to see just where your help is needed.

Rebuilding

Another way to help, would be to get involved in clean up and rebuilding. While most protests have been peaceful, some unscrupulous individuals have used the protests and Black Lives Matter movement as a reason to loot or damage property. Many organizations have organized rallies and groups to clean up and rebuild businesses that have been affected. Business owners clamor for state or other governmental assistance to be able to care for the needs of their businesses, but sometimes these requests fall on deaf ears. And even if they don’t, due to the economic strain Covid-19 has put on just about everyone, state and government funds are being stretched practically to their limit.

Whether due to looting or not, helping communities rebuild, or even improve in general, can also go a long way. There are unfortunately communities where people of color live, that are not as well taken care of as more affluent areas. Making repairs and improvements to not only the aesthetics, but functionality of these neighborhoods; such as libraries, schools, and playgrounds; can have a profound affect. When people care about their neighborhood, confidence, pride, and overall morale increases.

Spread The Word

One of the most powerful ways to help, and get other people to help, is word of mouth. Use your voice. Talk to friends, family, co-workers; make others aware that you have an interest in and are supporting the cause, and you’d like them to as well. It doesn’t mean that you have to go to protests; it could simply mean adjusting some strongly-entrenched views that many may have regarding people of color. Stereotypes abound; in terms of everyone. Adjusting your views, as well as encouraging others to do the same, can help get rid of the negative picture that people sometimes have when it comes to people of color.

Letting go of negative stereotypes also helps strengthen communities. When every member of the community is cared for and viewed as equals, everyone will look out for one another. At the end of the matter, we’re all part of one race; the human race. No person should look down on another because of their race, culture, background, religion, or economic status. Encouraging others to view each other as equals is a small step that has big results.

Battling Discouragement

While a majority of people of color will be grateful for the heartfelt assistance, some are unfortunately so jaded by the way things are, that they may present themselves as being apathetic, and occasionally even hostile. But please, do not be discouraged. This is a hardened outer shell with years of pain behind it. People of color are often conditioned from youth to distrust anyone who isn’t a person of color; whose melanin doesn’t match their own. While this is understandable given the years of hurt and mistrust, it also creates unfair bias against non-people-of-color who genuinely care.

We know that society is not only black and white, good and bad. A majority of people are good, and every group has its bad. Do not give up fighting against the bad; even if it seems that your efforts are at first unappreciated. Consistent, earnest effort lets even the harshest of critics know that you are sincere.

Outlook for the Future

With the world engaged in social and economic upheaval, there’s little telling what will take place over the next months, years, even decades. Racial injustice has been a prevalent force for so many years, to the point that some doubt that it can ever change; but there is hope.

Even though it may seem that one individual produces small results, look at the bigger picture:

Imagine an empty bucket, and someone comes along and drops a teaspoon of water in it. At first look, it appears to be a literal ‘drop in the bucket’. But imagine if many people, all of them carrying teaspoons, some even tablespoons, or cups, come; and they all keep putting water in. Eventually, that bucket will fill up. Similarly, if several individuals produce small results, together, they will create bigger results. That individual turns into a group, and the continued efforts compound on one another, and keep growing. Every little bit helps. If people continually work together, injustice will be fought, and we can see a future where people of color won’t have to face injustice and discrimination anymore.

Managing Anxiety and Fear as We Rise In COVID-19 Cases Again

I must say, it is pretty hard being an Ohio resident right now. In fact, it is hard to live peacefully just about anywhere across the nation since the pandemic arose. With over 135,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States alone as of July 17th, (590,000 worldwide), it is a scary reality that any one of us could be next. And just when we thought the worst of it was over, the stats rose again, especially here in Ohio. In fact, in just the last two weeks alone, there have been 9,779 new cases, which is a 73% jump from the two weeks prior.

Now, when looking at these stats and seeing all these new cases, it can be hard to manage the underlying fear and anxiety you may be feeling during this uncertain time. First off, it is completely normal to be nervous and be cautious for your safety. However, if you find that your emotions are starting to affect your daily routine or that you cannot think or focus on anything else except the adversity around you, then it is time you prioritize yourself. To give you some guidance on managing your anxiety and fear right at home, here are some valuable coping skills that will both ground you and help you get through this time period with a much better mindset.

Ideal Coping Skills to Adopt

· Deep Breathing Exercises: Breathing is well known to substantially lower stress levels and can take that unnecessary pressure off in just a couple of easy moves. Sit or lay down, close your eyes, breathe in slowly, wait about 3-5 seconds, and breath back out slowly. Do this for about 5 to 10 minutes and imagine you are in a relaxing place while doing so.

· Meditation: Meditation is undoubtedly something that can ease and clear your mind and leave you feeling like an entirely new person who can take on the day. This will help you grow as a person and can really allow you to dive deep inside yourself to understand what you want in life, what your goals are, and help you discover the right choices to get there. Just 10 minutes (or more if you wish) a day in a nice quiet space can work wonders.

· Stretch/Yoga: When you are stressed or fearful, chances are your muscles are tense. Because of this, take some time each day to loosen them up to feel refreshed. You can do this by stretching when you feel anxious thoughts surfacing or making it a habit to practice yoga, which can coincide with deep breathing.

· Physical Exercise: Exercise is not only a healthy thing to do regardless, it is also one of the best ways to relax your mind and body and improve your mood. Though you may be nervous about going outside with COVID-19, there are still ways you can get in a good workout without having to go to the gym. There are many home workouts you can try, from moderate to intense, or just a brisk walk each day while social distancing can help you reach your fitness goals and a better state of mind.

· Eat Well: Did you know that some foods are not just bad for you, they can actually increase stress? I get it; during quarantine, you may have become relaxed when it comes to what you eat. But never underestimate the power nutrition has on your mind and body. When you eat a well-balanced diet filled with veggies, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, you will feel better as a whole and will be able to have much more control over your moods.

· Bond with Nature: Get out into the woods away from others and really bond with nature. Being surrounded by birds, trees, and connecting with the earth while disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is an integral part of improving your health. This will inevitably give you a soothing feeling and help you if you are under a lot of stress.

Conclusion

Never forget, you cannot always control everything around you, but you can control how you react. Though COVID-19 is a real, and quite the dangerous reality right now, you do not have to let the negativity and fear associated with it harm your wellbeing. Anyone can become infected with COVID-19, and yes, taking the necessary CDC measures can reduce your risk, but never forget about your mental health as well. Practice self-care and use healthy coping methods, such as mentioned above, to give yourself the ideal quality of life you deserve during and after this pandemic is finally over.

As a final note, if you feel like your fear, anxiety, or even depression is getting out of control or unmanageable on your own despite your best efforts, please do not hesitate to contact us

for support. Your mental health is vitally important, and leveraging the resources around you can really help you get back to a positive mindset in conjunction with healthy coping mechanisms.

An Open Letter to Explain The George Floyd Protests.

Sometimes, when I’m lying in bed at night, I like to pretend that America has truly overcome the injustice of systemic racism. I like to imagine that I live in a world where my family is safe from the prejudice that our skin color brings, because we have moved past judging a person by the amount of melanin that is produced in their body.

When I get out of bed, drive myself to work, and settle in with a cup of coffee, I know that my hopes for an inclusive America are almost a pipe dream. It is hard to ignore how different the lives of black and white Americans are experienced. You have seen black people pushed out of their homes by gentrification, killed by police, vilified for our skin color and denied basic human rights because of the way we were born.

I am disgusted- to say the least.

I am disgusted because George Floyd was not the first victim of systemic racism in our country and without a doubt, he will not be the last. As a mental health therapist, I was taught the strategies for coping with negative emotions: disgust, anger, fury, sadness, to name a few. And although I know that I cannot dismantle systematic racism on my own, I want to offer some solace to those seeking to quell the pain of continuous injustices directed towards the people of color in America.

The reason behind the riots.

I often find that understanding the motive behind an event helps me to come to terms with it. Right now, over 30 cities have erupted in protests over the treatment of racism in our country. I have seen a lot of judgement and a lot of hate circulating in these past days, and I believe it is because the protesters and the rioters are being seen as one group. In fact, they are different.

The rioters have been highlighted by the media in order to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. Rioting is a direct consequence of 400 years of oppression that people have color faced. Similar to the actions of a traumatized child, individuals who feel that they are not being heard or supported escalate to violence in reaction to their trauma. Rioting is not appropriate, and not a way to effectively communicate, however, it is a form of communication. There is also conflicting evidence as to the demographics of the rioters, if some were professional, majority Caucasian-decent or people of color. The rioting is an image of grief, grief that is real in the hearts and minds or the rioters and protesters.

The Protesters, on the other hand, more accurately represent the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Can you imagine?

Imagine yourself when you were seventeen years old. A peer offers you a bag of skittles on your walk home from school. As you walk through the door to your house, your mother has collapsed, sobbing on her knees. You rush to her side, look up at the TV screen and see someone who looks just like you. He is seventeen. He is holding a bag of skittles. And he was murdered by a police officer a few miles from your home.

Can you imagine seeing someone on the TV screen, whose body is now cold, and thinking to yourself – that could have been me? That could have been my father, or my little brother? That could have been the boy who sits next to me in Biology every day? Or the boy who took my sister to prom?

Now imagine that happening every day. Imagine living in constant fear that someone you love and care about will end up on the wrong side of a police-issued pistol? Imagine the amount of terror you would live in every day knowing that you cannot trust the very officers who are meant to be keeping you safe as long as they are protected by qualified immunity.

Imagine…how tired you would be. How exhausted. How entirely hopeless you would feel about the world that you must live in, love in, raise a family in?

That is why we protest.

We protest for the same reason that the crowds behind Martin Luther King Jr. did all those years ago. We protest because we can imagine a world in which we do not have to live in fear, and we believe that world can be achieved. It is important that all of us, being members of the society that we live in, speak up.

The protesters that are populating those 30 cities across the US are using their voices to drive us into a world where we are not plagued by systemic racism. Every day, they are risking their lives and safety to stand up for what is right. We stand for the murderers to be held accountable for their crimes.

There is an unfortunate truth behind the protests, though. Change does not happen overnight. Derek Chauvin is not going to wake up tomorrow and become a champion of equality. White supremacists are not going to suddenly understand that a person’s value does not depend on their skin color. Change takes time, and there is no telling how long we have left to go through this madness.

So, in the meantime, the big question is this:

How do we cope?

How do we, as people of color, cope? How do we live in a world that is not safe for us, and manage happiness? To be quite honest, there is no one definitive answer. After all, ignoring everything going on in our communities is not an option. The easiest option for peace of mind is ignorance, and we are long past that.

There are a few pieces of advice that I have as a mental health therapist. The first thing to know is that being in control of the situation around us often brings us comfort. A large portion of fear and unrest is being caused by feeling out of control, feeling like you have no say in the events of our own life.

However, it is a myth that you do not have any control over racism in our world. You do have control; your control is in how you respond to the terrible acts of racism in our country. If you feel strong enough to protest, find comfort in protesting. If you feel unsafe, it is entirely okay to use your voice from behind the front lines – talk to your friends and family members about how you are feeling or make a well-informed statement on social media. You may find that not everyone agrees with you, but you have been honest about how you are feeling, and you have established how you view the issues around you. Sometimes it helps to see your struggle written out before you – because you have regained some control.

On the other hand, if you find yourself feeling grieved and overwhelmed by the tragic outcomes of systemic racism – like the death of a father like George Floyd – you should know that you have every right to feel how you feel. You have every right to grieve, to be angry and to be overwhelmed. When you reach that point, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to disengage. Give yourself a break from the social media outpour. Common ways to express your grief can be through art, song or sports. Taking a step back and prioritizing your own self-care does not make you any less of a valuable member of the community. You are not selfish or uncaring for putting your own mental health before the madness.

Some parting words.

As we walk through these incredibly painful days, it is important to remember that we are all part of a community. There is love to be had between us, even as we endure all of this pain. The pain will ease, but slowly. Change will come even slower. But until then, it is important to remember that we are strong, resilient, talented and we are many.

Our day is coming. Until then, please remember to love and care for yourselves, and not let yourself be drowned in the grief or the anger that the public is emitting in waves. Engage, but safely. You are the most important thing.

And of course, I have to add: Rest in peace, George Perry Floyd.